Five To Watch: Veterans

TE Dallas Clark (Andy Lyons/Getty)

We've taken a look at the five rookies to watch already. Have a look at the veterans to keep your eyes on Saturday afternoon.

1. Charlie Johnson: While it's true that Tony Ugoh is the one that needs to unseat Johnson and that Colts fans should keep an eye on Ugoh as well, the fact remains that Johnson will (or should) be in the game for three quarters on Saturday, so he'll obviously get the longest look.

Since earning the top spot on the depth chart, Johnson has not done much to show that he is worthy of protecting Peyton Manning's blindside and has not been overly impressive.  Compounding the issue is the fact that Ugoh has been even less impressive.

Since Ugoh will not play more than a quarter if everything goes according to plan, Johnson warrants watching to see if he shows some signs of settling in at the position.

If he struggles and is replaced, then that bodes well for Ugoh.  If struggles and is not replace, that does not bode well for Ugoh or the Colts, since that would mean the coaching staff trusts a struggling Johnson more than they trust Ugoh.

2. Dallas Clark: What stood out on offense for the Colts in the Eagles game was not Peyton Manning or Reggie Wayne, simply because that level of production is expected.

The real star of the game was Jacob Tamme, who was substituting for an injured Dallas Clark.  Clark should be ready to go for this game and it will be interesting to see if he's targeted as early and often as Tamme was against Philadelphia.

If he is, he should be more productive than Tamme was and Tamme finished with five receptions for 60 yards — although he failed to convert on a touchdown pass in the red zone.

With Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow traded out of the conference, Clark has the best chance of his career to capitalize on a big season and end up in the Pro Bowl.  If the Colts are designing plays with him in mind, that only improves his chances.  If those plays are successful against Detroit and in practice, there's a much better chance that they will be used in real game situation.

3. Clint Session: Session has been solid so far this preseason and so far in his career, but he has not been spectacular.  Gary Brackett is the captain of the defense and Philip Wheeler has flashed the potential to be an explosive player in run support, coverage, and rushing the quarterback.

With Freddy Keiaho and Tyjuan Hagler already on the roster as established veterans with a great deal of starting experience, young veteran Jordan Senn nipping at his heels, and promising rookies Ramon Humber and Michael Tauiliili in the mix as well, it is Session's job to assert himself at the top of the pecking order.

Chances are that no one will be able to overtake him as the starter and he certainly is in no danger of losing his roster spot, but it is vitally important that he add a big play element to his game, otherwise he could find himself on the wrong end of contract negotiations and end up in a situation similar to what Hagler and Keiaho experienced this offseason.  They're back with the team, but not on their terms.  And not for the money that they were expecting when they hit the free agent market in March.

4. Joseph Addai: All eyes have been on rookie sensation Donald Brown so far, but Addai is still the starter, still has a better understanding of the offense, and is still the superior pass blocker, which is critical in the Colts scheme.

He has seen limited action in the preseason and had offseason knee surgery.  Neither have had an effect on his status, but he can't ride his reputation and pass blocking ability forever.  At some point, he needs to remind everyone why he's the starting running back for this team.

Saturday afternoon against the Lions is his first real opportunity.  He needs to showcase every tool in his toolbox, run with authority, and make a serious contribution to the offense.  That should get everyone talking about him and not the hotshot rookie from Connecticut.

5. Marlin JacksonHow will his knee respond to extended action?  Will the coaches keep the rest of the defensive starters in for three quarters and take Marlin out early?  With a number of talented players behind him and entering a contract year, should he allow that to happen even if it's only the preseason?

The depth chart at cornerback seems to be pretty well set and Jackson seems to be at the top of it, but he also has to wonder why ownership hasn't approached him about a contract with similar numbers to those paid out to Kelvin Hayden.  Jackson has a lot on the line this season and, like Addai, this is his first real chance to get started.


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